The Polarity of Evil
Updated: May 24
As some of you may have already noticed based on my earlier work, evil is a very interesting concept to me when applied to non-fiction. The more realistically complex an issue gets, the more one can realize that people very rarely use plain evil as the justification for their actions.
The most opposite figure in fiction in that regard is the Joker from the DC Universe franchise. The Joker has no motive to justify his actions, while everyone else in real life is more likely to work in accordance to a motive that can be seen as evil by those who despise them.
In other words, because it is so easy for us humans to disagree with one another, any controversial act, even a crime, could be seen as logically justified by others, while the attempt to condemn or stop it could be seen as the true evil. The only act, therefore, that cannot be judged as evil, is one that is without any motive whatsoever. Without motive, it would be impossible to logically conclude the true intention of one's deeds. This is because evil without an intention that cannot be seen as wrong, cannot technically be evil, even in an existence where everything has a reason.
One of the most cliché expressions that can be technically right is "might makes right." What does this mean? It means that the entity or ideology with the most physical power is the one that is more likely to receive the most agreements, and thus, be seen as justified. Likewise, the notion of democracy as the most preferred regime of any nation was of course not always regarded as such. In fact, Socrates disagreed with the competency of democracy, since he believed that the people are not always adequate to decide the best leadership for their country.
Mind you, most of humanity's history has been filled with absolute monarchies and other forms of totalitarian governments, where it was "okay" to execute someone for treason, or even any other reason the ruler believed to be justified. Unless the population were happy with what they got, your average pre-modern regime remained under the same ruler for as long as they survived before either getting killed, dying of old age, being sent to exile, and so on.
What if Socrates wrote about his disbelief in democracy on Twitter? Surely he would get a lot of hate from the world, but if your average Athenian or any other native to the time Socrates lived in heard his words, chances are that they would logically agree with him. They would not shame him in the town square like some contemporary people might do nowadays on such media.
What if we lived in an alternative universe where communism reigned supreme as most of the world's countries' political ideology? For example, what if the Soviet Union won the Cold War, and many countries fell to the influence of communism? Surely in such a universe, the notion of democracy would be seen as less desirable, or even as evil, if the propaganda did its job. In such a world, assuming there would be social media, expressing your thoughts in deep favor of democracy would get you shamed as well by that network's users, if not get you killed for treason, and few would protest on your behalf.
What I'm saying is that, in some way, the dictating norms of what we should think and believe could be evil to others as they are seen as good to us. Even in a world that is mostly ruled by liberal democracies, if someone from the far past would hear about such a regime, which we see as good and ideal, they may comment very negatively about our world's state of affairs, due to it being so democratic. To put it even simpler, those who do or think for the sake of evil are extremely few; the vast majority of us do and think what we believe to be good, even if someone may believe it to be evil.
This is how mind-blocking our norms can be, because should someone criticize our thoughts and/or endeavors to be evil, what are the odds that we will genuinely agree with them and confess we're evil, and we like it? Perhaps some will do it out of mockery towards that critic, but in the end, extremely few are the people who believe in evil or genuinely want to be evil, whether or not evil has an objective definition that most if not all would agree about.
As many of you may already know, I was born in Israel and I live in it to this day, and it's perhaps one of the most hated countries in this century. Some may accuse Israel for being evil, if not satanic, but ask anyone who is in favor of Israel's actions, and it's very unlikely that they will agree with you about her evil, even if both you and them may have the same awareness and knowledge to what's going on in the Middle East and in the world in general.
Even Hitler would not tell you that he's the personification of evil, even though he appears that way very much in the eyes of many; he would claim, after all, that he was a vegetarian. Surely an evil person won't eat innocent animals? As many of us do on a regular basis?
Perhaps, it is only when the world will become fully globalized, AKA, if a single or a coalition of cultures will "conquer" the world's population, when we will be able to optimally determine, at least during that "conquest", what is actually good and what is actually evil. Such "conquering" has been partially implemented already -- murder, and other crimes have become almost entirely illegal over our world's history.
A medieval regent who r***d his wife would not receive the same negative reception as a contemporary one who would do just that. Imagine what would happen if your country's leader were accused of a criminal act today. Your far-away ancestor, however, might not even really care and return to their work. They might even justify it, claiming that a woman should not resist her husband's command or something in that now-disgusting fashion.
In summary, norms can be as noble as they can be dastardly and wicked. What we were taught to believe as good and appropriate is not an undeniable truth, even if many would scold you for believing otherwise. In fact, one may even claim that there is no such thing as an undeniable truth when it comes to the very gray area that is the philosophical field of ethics. In many ways, unless we're brave enough to disagree and express that disagreement, much of who we are is indeed a product of our environment. However, without a vocal opposition to the norms, they will rarely change.